My brother Phillip went on the butter diet a few months ago. “Yeah,” he said on the phone, over the sounds of my 4-year-old niece hollering mightily in the background. “I’ve probably lost about ten pounds eating a stick of butter a day. And I feel better too.”
I’d heard of this nonsense before. At a bike race I watched a few years ago, one of the riders was known as “Billy Butter” due to his advocacy for eating lots and lots of creamy goodness—a stick a day keeps the doctor at bay, or something like that.
Science has long argued the point that there are good fats and good cholesterols, and your body needs a certain amount of both. It turns out that people on the butter diet just use lots of butter sautéing vegetables, cooking food, and so on. In talking with Phil, though, it was the butter-covered vegetables that lent some validity to the butterians’ claims. I was relieved to find out that you don’t just unroll one end of a butter stick and start munching on it happily like a Tootsie Roll®.
I wouldn’t put full-scale butter-eating past Phil. He has a history of strange dietary hiccups. One night in middle school, I asked for the salt and pepper at the dinner table.
“I thought I just saw you put some on your food?” my mother questioned warily, as she handed the shakers my way.
“Yeah,” I said, “but I couldn’t really taste it yet.”
From the other end of the table, a fork hit a plate. “You’re supposed to taste it??” Phil’s expression would have been suitable if an emu had just popped its head through the ceiling tiles for a quick hello.
It turns out that Phil had thought that salting and peppering was this ritual we went through, something that once had a meaning, but now primarily was an exercise in the many ways to not pass the dinner elements to each other. I use this story as an argument to my parents that they may have sat us through too many communion services at church.
Anyways. Lubing up your tubes with butter must do something for a person, because butterians seem to have a healthy, happy glow (or is that a sheen?). Maybe I project happiness on them so I can justify eating more butter. Because, if I can eat more butter, surely I can eat more bacon as well. And, if fats make me happy, healthy, and stealthy, then I won’t have to spend my paycheck buying energy powders and kale powders and protein powders at Winter Ridge—which seems to have every powder on the left and central side of the scales, but is strangely lacking in gunpowder.
My Hungarian gypsy grandma always wanted us to save the bacon and sausage leavings for the dog using her own brand of logic: smearing grease on the dog makes him shinier, so feeding it to the dog must result in a healthy, shiny coat. None of her dogs ever argued with her. We knew better than to argue with her as well, because no matter how much you insisted you didn’t need a honey bear jar full of loose change, she was going to save one for your next visit regardless. And, like any properly greedy, grubby grandkids, we were going to take money in any form it came.
Any time I have questions about fats these days, I save them up for my friend Betty. Betty knows a lot about fats. It’s her job: She works at Litehouse. Litehouse dressings are so dang tasty because of the amount of work they put into their fats/salts/sugars ratios. It’s true: They cleverly engineer your neuron reactions to make you an addict (albeit without the cheaters’ step of adding MSG). After you’ve snacked your way through one of their crack-level jars of jalapeño ranch, any attempts to eat your way through a jar of mayo-level generic ranch will leave your brain saddened and your tastebuds in withdrawal.
It’s the fats, stupid. The fats are also why Betty isn’t as excited about lower-fat Greek yogurt dressings—she thinks they don’t taste as full or as good as full-cream options. To top off this delicate balancing act, it’s the fats that can go rancid in a dressing, and ruin it all.
I asked Betty one day, as an enthralled disciple of science, “So, how is it that you guys set expiration dates for dressings?” In my mind danced networks of tubes, small puffs of purple smoke and beakers of carefully measured liquids dribbling into a mystery soup. I figured the formula for the magic of prophecy was proprietary, but surely she could share a few small details.
Betty smirked and said, “We taste it.”
I stared at her for a second. “So… you taste it?”
“Yeah, we taste it. When we’re developing test batches, we keep a sample in the fridge and open it every week and taste it. And eventually, one day it tastes bad. So we write the date down. And we go from there.”
It turns out that science is still a lot of experimentation and repetition, folks. We don’t have a lot of our shit figured out. But in my lifelong obsession with fats, I’ve learned two things. One, I like them, lots and lotses. A fat in my hand is better than a fat in a Bush, whether he’s known as “W.” or otherwise. Two, I am grateful that even on the worst of days at my crazy workplace, I do not have to devise clever ways to remove the taste of rancid dressing from of my mouth.
PollyAnna lives, writes and loves the “good stuff” in Sandpointian life in between servings of bacon and excursions to Panhandle Cone & Coffee.
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